New college rankings & AFC preview

As for the Bills, in the offseason, EJ Manuel said he was learning the "nuisances" of his position. Presumably this a malapropism -- he meant "nuances." Unless it was a gaffe, meaning that he accidentally spoke the truth. Also in the offseason, NBC's Luke Russert said the Bills should stay in Buffalo for "all eternity." For a trillion years? Your columnist tweeted, "By then Bills will have won the Super Bowl." Jesse Griffis of East Aurora, New York, tweeted back, "Don't jinx it!"

Cincinnati: "The Bengals played a strong regular season quickly followed by a first-round postseason wheeze-out." I just loaded that sentence into my AutoText, since it describes five of the past nine Cincinnati seasons, including 2013. In his 11 years holding the whistle for the trick-or-treats -- impressive longevity by current NFL standards -- Marvin Lewis is 90-85-1 in the regular season and 0-5 in the postseason. Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff contest since 1991.

Last season, Lewis barely seemed awake on the sideline as Cincinnati lost 27-10 at home to San Diego in the playoffs. Lewis didn't get upset. He didn't try changing strategy as his charges wheezed out again. He just stood there, staring. Employing the passive, retreating tactics for which he is infamous, Lewis three times had his team punt on fourth-and-short in San Diego territory, including on fourth-and-1. Victories don't come in the mail; go win the game!

Two interceptions and a lost fumble by Andy Dalton didn't help. In the offseason, Cincinnati rewarded Dalton with a contract extension with a $115 million paper value and about $25 million guaranteed. Dalton, 0-3 in the postseason, now boasts a richer contract than Tom Brady, 18-8 in the postseason with three Super Bowl rings. Tony Romo, 1-3 in the postseason, also boasts a larger contract than Brady. There are differences in their situations -- Brady is 37, and in his last negotiation sought higher guarantees in exchange for lower maximum. But these three contracts tell us much about the goofy state of pro sports economics.

Reader Ty Kuck of Batavia, Ohio, notes that the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl with conventional, conservative defense, while Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has decided to try gimmick fronts.

Give the ball to the law firm! The Bengals and Patriots are a combined 32-5 when BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a touchdown for them.

Unified Field Theory of Creep: Reader Natalie Pasternack of Palo Alto, California, notes that at around the Fourth of July, Kmart began running ads themed "the new school year starts here."

Cleveland: Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had Robert Griffin III in Washington and now has Johnny Manziel in Cleveland. The media circus around RG III may have prepared him for the media circus around Manziel. Let's hope experience with the pounding Griffin took when he rushed 120 times in his rookie regular season is fresh in Shanahan's mind, too. If Johnny Football runs around like a madman as he did in college, his career will be short -- defenders are so much faster and stronger than they once were; Fran Tarkenton couldn't use his crazed scrambling style today, either.

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